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In The Spotlight: Resorts World Las Vegas Director of Poker Operations Leon Wheeler

A Look At The Fastest Growing Cardroom On The Strip

by Sean Chaffin |  Published: Feb 21, 2024

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Resorts World Poker Director Leon WheelerResorts World added some major energy to the north end of the Las Vegas Strip when the $4.3 billion property debuted in 2021. While not only offering excellent gambling options, world-class dining, and three hotels with nearly 3,500 combined rooms, the property added a stellar poker room to the Strip at a time when other casinos’ rooms around town were closing up.

Director of Poker Operations Leon Wheeler has been at the property since June 2022 and brings a long history in the game to the role.

He grew up in Oklahoma, but his family moved to Las Vegas when he was in high school. After learning how to play poker from friends and developing a real passion for the game, he carved out a career in the industry that eventually led to running the fastest growing cardroom in the city.

Wheeler spoke with Card Player about his career, his role with Resorts World Las Vegas, and what players can expect when taking a seat in the 29-table luxury poker room.

Card Player: You’ve been in the poker industry for a long time. Can you talk about how you got your start?

Leon Wheeler: I grew up in Oklahoma until I was 15. We moved to Las Vegas in my sophomore year of high school, and at the time there were only about 300,000 people living here.

In 1985, I met this kid at the Bingo Palace arcade. His stepfather played poker for a living, so they taught me to play at the kitchen table. I fell in love with it.

I broke into the business back in 1991, dealing at the Gold Coast. And then we opened up The Orleans in 1996, and I worked there until 2009 – my last job there being assistant poker room manager.

Then In 2009, we opened up Aria and I was a shift manager there until 2015 when I went to the Wynn. I helped open Resorts World as shift manager in 2021, and when our director moved on, I took over the position.

CP: What’s the action like at Resorts World Las Vegas?

LW: We have 29 tables in our poker room, 25 on the main floor and two tables in a glass-enclosed room. And we also get a salon about six or seven times a year that’s got two tables.

Of course, we have our normal hold’em games. We offer $1-$3, $2-$5 – all the games you’d find anywhere else, but we also specialize in mixed games. We have a big mixed game following here. We run our $300-$600 mix every day, $80-$160 mix just about every day, an $8-$16 mix – each with quite a lot of games.

CP: With stakes that high, I imagine you see a lot of notable players come through.

LW: In those two games, the $300-$600 and the $80-$160, there are probably 15 bracelet winners that play on a regular basis. Eli Elezra is a staple here. John Monnette and Erik Sagstrom play here quite a bit. Erik is pretty much the host of the game and corrals everybody to come play.

CP: What sets the Resorts World Las Vegas poker room apart?

LW: It’s a modern feel – all the chairs are brand new, all the tables are brand new. The software we use, PokerAtlas, is a little better from what everybody else is using. Not everybody’s on PokerAtlas as of yet, but that will soon change and everybody will have to catch up to us.

You can register right to the app. You can check your comp balance on the app. It’s very intuitive and the software on the backend is outstanding. There’s nothing like it. We also offer excellent customer service and a very skilled staff.

CP: What can players expect as far as daily tournaments and promotions?

LW: We offer daily guarantee tournaments. Our $200 tournament (12:05 p.m.) averages probably 35 to 40 players a day and has a $5,000 guarantee. Our $160 nightly tournament averages about the same and has a $3,000 guarantee.

We also piggyback off the Wynn at times when they run certain events. We kind of cater to the lower buy-in tournaments when they raise their tournaments. Having the Wynn across the street is a plus, even though they’re the room to be in right now. We feel like the overflow from there crosses over.

We also offer $1.50 in comps an hour. I guess our biggest promotion is that we don’t take money off the tables with unnecessary promotions. We try to stay focused on just the poker, and providing an enticing environment to play.

We offer tableside food service from Hawkers Row. It’s a recreation of the famous Hawkers Row in Thailand and has 17 vendors offering a variety of options. We also have a kiosk right in the room that players can order from.

We offer group special events from time to time, any kind of poker event customers want to bring to us, whether it be charity events, bachelor parties, things of that nature. It’s an up-and-coming cardroom and people would be missing out if they don’t check it out.

CP: Can you run down a few major tournament series that the cardroom has hosted and what players can look forward to on the horizon?

LW: In November, we hosted the return of the North American Poker Tour with PokerStars. That was our first one and it was awesome. There were nearly 1,100 players in the main event and we easily beat our $1.5 million guarantee. And now we’re planning on our next NAPT for this November.

Having a good partner like PokerStars is really key and they’re great to work with. Eventually we could host series twice a year, but I think that’s more down the line. In fact, there may be more news about our partnership with PokerStars in the near future.

We hosted the Cardplayer Lifestyle Mixed Games Festival (not affiliated with Card Player Magazine) last November and we’re having another from Feb. 26-30. It’s going to open with an Omaha eight-or-better tournament and then close with a H.O.R.S.E tournament.

We also have bigger tournaments throughout the year. In March we’re running a PokerAtlas Tour series. They’re launching a tour that goes around the country and we’re going to be debut of the tour in Vegas. We’re going to have a $250 mystery bounty event with a $100,000 guarantee as our opener, and several $400 events that include tournaments such as Omaha eight-or-better, some sort of mix like 2-7 or triple draw. And then the main event will be an $800 buy-in with a big guarantee. We’re still working out the details but it’s coming soon.

We’re trying to get to a place where we become a regular stop for poker players. I think the key is adding events throughout the year. Perhaps the Card Player Poker Tour will make a visit? Stay tuned.

CP: Running a poker room is a really unique job. What’s your favorite part?

LW: My favorite part is connecting with the customers, my relationship with the players. That’s really true. I run the Twitter/X account and make sure we tweet out the tournament winners and things of that nature.

I’ve always been a people person and I feel that the customers deserve to see the cardroom manager on the floor – saying hello to people when they come in, and to make sure they’re appreciated when they’re here.

You can follow Wheeler on Twitter/X @Pkrboss1.

About Resorts World

Resorts World Las Vegas opened in 2021, marking the first new resort on the legendary Las Vegas Strip in over a decade. The property was developed on the site of the old Stardust, which was demolished back in 2007.

The $4.3 billion property features a 117,000 square foot casino, and a 59-story hotel with three distinct Hotels. Las Vegas Hilton, Conrad Las Vegas, and Crockfords Las Vegas combine for neearly 3,500 total rooms.

The casino floor features 1,400 slot machines, 117 table games, and of course, the poker room.

In addition to gaming, the property offers plenty of other world-class entertainment options, with the 5,000-person Resorts World Theater, the Zouk Nightclub, and the Ayu Beach House. There are also more than 50 dining and drinking establishments on site.

For more information on Resorts World Las Vegas, check out the official website here. ♠